We occasionally see foreign philanthropy in African communities. Other times we see the likes of “Aunty” Patricia Wilkins who willingly traded her life of luxury for the benefit of the underprivileged people in Africa.
Patricia Wilkins used to be a comfortable fashion designer with a well-paying job. Without counting costs, the 52-year old halted her glamorous lifestyle and found a new meaning to life as she now dedicates her life and resources to the upkeep and formation of the growing Ghanaian children.
The turn around in her lifestyle was motivated from her own personal experience. Patricia Wilkins was raised in Queens, New York, USA by a single mum. She recalls that life was not easy for them at the time.
From that first hand experience came the calling to invest in the young people. She started this altruistic service right from her immediate environment in the United States. In time the quest to reach as many people as possible took her to Russia and later to Accra, Ghana.
Aunty Pat as fondly called sees herself in every distressed child.
“I understand the pain of the children and the caretaker. Whether they talk about it or not, they are wearing that burden on their shoulder,”
After so much thought she sought the counsel of her pastor before venturing into the next phase of her life.
Before setting out on the journey, Patricia had sold off all her exotic and pricey assets and belongings. She believed the ease at which she sold her assets was a somewhat sign that she was on the right track.
“That was a great sign. Everything just fell into place,”
“I felt like it was right.”
Patricia sold her $10,000 bedroom set, BMW car, her condo and quit her job as a textile supplier for a fashion company. She was a graduate of Queensborough Community College and the Fashion Institute of Technology.
Moving to Ghana, the selfless mentor set up the BASICS International foundation with $60,000 from her savings.
BASICS is the acronym for Brothers And Sisters In Christ Serving.
The foundation is an all round formation platform. Here, they offer after-school academic tutorials and empower the young students through skill acquisition.
BASICS International, situated in Chokor area, Accra, Ghana, has become second home to many children. It has served 1,300 children since its inception in 2001.
Matilda Amissah-Arthur, wife of former Ghana’s Vice President said:
“Her love for the children actually translates into the whole society of Chorkor,”
“In that area they look out for her, she is really part of them. We appreciate her. We don’t even see her as an American. She is family to us.”
The former second lady says BASICS has the potentials of “ending cycles of illiteracy, poverty, hunger and child labour in Ghana permanently”.
Being raised by a single mother, Patricia Wilkins through her foundation tries to involve fathers in their children’s upbringing.
“We create forums and opportunities for children to talk about family structure and the role of father. We encourage fathers to be involved.”
Wilkins’ major aim is to change lives by guiding low-income children through school and getting them ready for skilled jobs.
Adding to the tutorials, BASICS offers daily “hot meal”, music lessons, computer classes and other skill development training. The NGO accommodates students from the age range of 6-18 years. Through several partnerships with corporate and charitable organizations, Wilkins is able to attend to about 85 students on daily basis. Malnourished children are also taken care of.
Students have testified that their perspective about life and their future were transformed for the better, courtesy of BASICS. For the first time ever the foundation sponsored its first student to the University level in 2006. After that, some others have followed suit.
In 2010, the NGO took a step further by setting up a boarding house for distressed young girls.
Patricia Wilkins’ endeavors so far is convincing enough that she has truly found her purpose in life. She admits that it has not been easy but remains optimistic about the positive end results for the students and the society at large.